Sky Lewey
Nueces River Authority
Uvalde, Texas

When Sky Lewey became the resource protection and public education associate for the Nueces River Authority in 2001, her task was daunting. The river authority’s enormous area includes 23 watersheds across 17,000 square miles of south Texas. Booming popularity of off-road vehicle recreation was devastating rivers in the basin and this destruction was occurring in remote wetlands out of the public eye. Ms. Lewey drew on her diverse background and experiences to bring this abuse of the rivers to statewide attention.

Born on the banks of the Nueces, Ms. Lewey is a fifth-generation rancher who has an intimate knowledge of the resource and its people. Prior to joining the authority, she worked in environmental engineering and hazardous waste management, community development, historic preservation, and international marketing, and taught school. Ms. Lewey credits all of those experiences as preparation for her current job.

Her approach to public education is straightforward: Let the river speak for itself through photographs, lectures, and tours that contrast the delicate, natural beauty of the river system with the thoughtless human activities that threaten its integrity. Making the river her classroom, she takes children and adults to see first-hand the life that depends on it. In the traditional classroom, she has introduced more than 5,000 students to watershed protection.

In 2003, she raised awareness in the Texas state capitol about damage to state-owned river beds caused by off-road recreation vehicles. Her efforts contributed to passage of legislation banning motor vehicles from Texas rivers. The bill received strong support in the state house and senate and from resource protection organizations across the state.

Ms. Lewey hopes her award will add credence to her river protection campaign and attract funding to facilitate expansion of her work.

— Susan Allen Lynch, Friends of the Frio and American Rivers, Rio Frio, Texas